Henley Investments Acquires Iconic 81-Room Lord Balfour Hotel on Miami’s Ocean Drive

USA, Boston, Massachusetts. September 12, 2019

Henley Investments, a leading private equity real estate firm based in the UK and the US, has announced the acquisition of their fourth boutique hotel in partnership with Life House, the venture-backed, technology-enabled hotel management company. The largest US hotel acquisition to-date by Henley with a total project capitalization in excess of $40M (including acquisition and renovation cost), this deal signals Life House's expansion into managing bigger hotels where its proprietary approach to hotel operations will continue to add significant value to both the underlying real estate and the hotel guest experience.

"We are very pleased with Life House's performance over the past 12-16 months throughout our existing Miami portfolio, whereby their advanced platform has enabled extremely efficient and profitable hotel operations," said Ian Rickwood, CEO of Henley. "We are actively seeking opportunities to acquire additional hotels in partnership with Life House across the US, and feel that with Life House, we are the best buyer of hotels with less than ~125 rooms."

Life House will initially operate the hotel leveraging its white-label platform, maintaining the property's historic branding as the "Lord Balfour Hotel," before executing a comprehensive renovation that will see the hotel rebranded as Life House Ocean Drive alongside timeless updates to all rooms, suites, and public spaces, as well as the build-out of a well-equipped fitness center and yoga studio.

"We're proud to offer a growing diversity of unique, locally-rooted options to travellers to Miami in partnership with Life House. The Lord Balfour Hotel is a high-quality existing asset, and we expect Life House Ocean Drive will dovetail perfectly with Henley's existing portfolio," added Garrett Solomon, Henley's Chief Investment Officer for the company's North American operations. Life House Ocean Drive will join Henley's current line of lifestyle hotels in Miami, including 33-key Life House Little Havana on 9th Avenue, 26-key Life House South Beach on Collins Avenue, and 50-key Life House Mid Beach on Park Avenue.

Unlike traditional hotel management companies, Life House is backed by institutional venture capital firms which enable the company to develop powerful software systems that create value for real estate owners. In live projects, Life House has proven its ability to leverage this proprietary technology to materially decrease operating expenses and drive strong incremental revenue, yielding a 30-50% higher return on hotel investments for their real estate partners than incumbent operators.

"We continue to be impressed by Life House's strong growth and long-term real estate partnerships. We are excited for the Company to scale nationwide on the back of strong fundamental performance", said Daniel Gulati, Managing Director at Comcast Ventures and a Life House Board Member.

During its first year of operation, Life House has signed over 500 rooms across 10 hotels and will be opening a new hotel every month for the next six months. "We're proud to have judiciously built a robust asset-light, software-driven platform in less than 18 months and with only $10M of venture backing," said Rami Zeidan, Founder & CEO of Life House. "We're now stable and poised to rapidly scale towards our vision of bringing Life House to every neighbourhood of every city in the US - and we're just getting started."

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Coming up in November 2019...

Architecture & Design: Biophilic Design

The hospitality industry is constantly evolving to meet and exceed guest expectations. As a result, hotels are always on the lookout for new ways to improve the guest experience, and architecture and design is an essential part of this equation. Bold design is often the most effective way to make an exceptional first impression - an impression guests use to distinguish between brands. One design trend that is being embraced worldwide has become known as “Biophilic Design.” Biophilic design is based on the concept of biophilia, which is the theory that human beings have an innate tendency to seek out nature, natural elements, and natural forms. Biophilic design is more than hotels simply adding a surplus of plants; it involves incorporating specific design elements into a hotel in order to imbue it with a sense of wellness and well-being. Some of those elements include exposure to natural lighting; views of nature and rooms with a view; natural architectural patterns; salvaged or reclaimed woods of all types; reclaimed metals; sustainably sourced stone; living green walls and vertical gardens; and direct and indirect exposure to nature. Hotels that have incorporated biophilic design into their properties are reaping the benefits associated with this trend including reduced stress responses, better air quality, lower energy costs, and more positive guest reviews. Biophilic design has also been shown to improve guest moods and to satisfy consumer demand for environmental responsibility. Savvy hotel owners and managers are aware that nature-inspired elements enhance their guests' comfort and well-being, which is why this trend is becoming so prevalent. Biophilic design is just one topic in the fields of hotel architecture and design that will be examined in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.